Audible has deflected criticism of their returns policy by curtailing the time when a return would be charged against a writer’s royalties from a year to seven days. However, the authors who initially raised the issue question what difference that will make.
As File 770 reported in November (see “How Audible’s Returns Policy Exploits Writers”), Audible, the audiobook publisher/distributor, stands accused of attracting readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to – becoming in effect a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives the author of what they should have earned on a work that was bought and enjoyed.
Amazon’s company ACX is a self-serve audiobook production platform, and Audible is its audiobook sales outlet. The adjustment to the returns policy was announced in “A Note from ACX” at the Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog (November 24):
…The intent of this program is to allow listeners to discover their favorite voice, author, or story in audio. In instances where we determine the benefit is being overused, Audible can and does limit the number of exchanges and refunds allowed by a member. But as designed, this customer benefit allows active Audible members in good standing to take a chance on new content, and suspicious activity is extremely rare.
We hope this helps convey perspective to our valued writers and ACX partners as to the impact of our current returns policies. However, in recognition of these concerns, moving forward and effective as of January 1, 2021, Audible will pay royalties for any title returned more than 7 days following purchase.
Susan May, one of the leaders in bringing these issues to public attention, told The Alliance of Independent Authors why she is not satisfied:
“In offering authors the burden of bearing the cost of a return up to seven days of purchase, and Audible then assuming that cost for the balance of the 365 days of the ‘Easy Exchange’ [membership] benefit, we still have no idea of the value of this concession. It’s our belief that most customers would return a book in the first seven days after listening, and then a smaller percentage will return thereafter. This is a reusable credit as we’ve seen, and so we may still be enduring substantial losses.
“Audible has no mechanism in place that we have found through multiple tests which prevents overuse of this ‘Easy Exchange’ program. They’ve also given no indication that they do in fact prevent someone from returning a book once a majority of it has been consumed, or limit the exchanges and refunds allowed by members.
“Therefore, this begs the question: Why won’t Audible/ACX supply authors and publishers with their returns data in a timely and open fashion?”
May also realizes that Audible will not really be out of pocket by paying two authors a royalty on the expenditure of one subscriber credit. The company will be diluting the royalties on returns beyond the seven-day widow as a function of increasing the number of sales among which Audible divides the authors’ share of monthly subscription income. May said on her own blog enty, “Audiblegate 2: The Emperor’s New Clothes Policy, Pot Theory, Unicorns & Pirates”:
…Under the new returns policy, the Emperor’s New ClothesPolicy, a subscriber can still “exchange” an audiobook in the exact same way, up to 365 days later. The only difference is that if a user exchanges a book after 7 days, both Author #1 AND Author #2 will receive the royalty for their sale.
Ooh, that seems good, and even if most of them are returned in the first seven days, that’s still something, right?
Well, no, because these returns after seven days are still potentially deducted from the exact same pot of money we all share. It’s still lost to authors and not being worn by the oh, so, magnanimous Audible, the party with the overly large share of the profit split.
…The Authors Guild appreciates that Audible has acknowledged the concerns raised by authors and has shown a willingness to make changes to its policy so that authors lose their royalties only if an audiobook is returned within seven days of purchase rather than the current 365, but their proposal does not go far enough. For high volume audiobook listeners, a seven-day period is more than enough to listen to a whole audiobook, and it is not fair to deduct the author’s royalty for books that have been or could have been listened to. This practice is unparalleled in digital media retail. We think that royalties should only be deducted in cases of accidental purchase and within a much shorter period of time, such as 48 hours, and only if the audiobook hasn’t been listened to substantially. We have communicated this to Audible. We have also asked Audible for transparency in their reporting so that authors can see the royalty deductions from their accounts; currently authors only see the net amounts – the number of books sold minus returns.
Many other author organizations have now joined the protest reports Publishing Perspectives.
The Dramatists’ Guild
The UK-based international Alliance of Independent Authors
The Writers’ Union of Canada
The Irish Writers Union
The Australian Society of Authors
The Society of Authors in the United Kingdom
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America;
The Romance Writers of America
Sisters in Crime
The Mystery Writers of America
May encourages writers to join the Facebook group she helped start where they can keep informed and work together to get Audible to treat them fairly.
(1) COLUMBUS 2020 NASFIC. The latest North American Science Fiction Convention ended today. NASFiC Newsletter is a place where you’ll find preserved such vital information as —
NASFiC by the Numbers
As of 11:30 pm on Saturday there were 1092 people registered through the convention website and 716 people on Discord.
We all know no one reads the souvenir book until they’re home, long after the con has ended. But since you’re ALREADY home, you can read it now! Read about our awesome Guests of Honor! Check out the convenient lists of artists and dealers, in case you want to follow up on something you saw at the con. Click to download your copy!
Out of context quotes
“Our asses are full of miracles”
“The attendees… or my minions. Whichever is more convenient”
“I just want to give all of you a big hug with my sand snork”
I can also recommend the NASFiC History section because some of it is written by yours truly. It begins with the site selection vote held in 1973 for the original NASFiC of 1975:
…Each bid was led by a co-chair of L.A.Con I, the just-completed Worldcon, Charles Crayne or Bruce Pelz.
…Crayne and Pelz reacted to TorCon 2’s [decision] simply by running their own site selection process at the con. I got my first bidding experience while helping Bruce Pelz and Milt Stevens haul cases of beer from a package store to their bid party in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. “Strong backs, weak minds,” I think Bruce said. When the ballots were counted, we (Bruce and Milt may be thinking, “What do you mean, we?”) lost to Chuck Crayne’s bid.
On whether the themes in the book were inspired by present-day corruption
I started writing this in 2009. … What we’re dealing with now in the United States, it’s not something that just happened. It’s been been going, and going, and going, and if we’re talking about Nigeria, Nigeria has been battling corruption for a very long time as well. … I couldn’t say that it was inspired by current events, but its connection to current events is certainly no accident.
On having a more global perspective
It was like I grew up hybrid — this hybrid culture where … I’m learning about two different histories and blending them together. And so when I sat down to write, that’s what naturally came forth. … When it comes to looking at things historically, I look at it in a very broad, global way. Everything that happens, you know, I’m making connections not just from one country, but from two countries.
(3) CLARION WEST. The Clarion West Write-a-Thon reached new heights:
…We set a new record as 542 individual writers participated, with nearly 250 active regulars bonding and sharing writing on our Slack channel. We are so proud and grateful!
In all, we raised over $26,000, surpassing our goal and ensuring we can continue to bring the Clarion West resources and experience to the world. Going online with so many classes, most of them free, was a huge investment. We can say without doubt that this investment has paid off!
(4) BUG NIGHT. Clarion West will be hosting a free online event with Seanan McGuire and an entomologist. Register at the link.
Join us for a conversation with award-winning author Seanan McGuire and entomologist Kristie Reddick to discuss how science fiction and fantasy use bugs as proxies for aliens, societies, fears, and hopes. From Alien to Ant Man, Starship Troopers to James and the Giant Peach, what do all these stories have to tell us about being human?
Register here. This event is free to view online. Purchase a ticket to join the live Q&A after the event. Limited higher-tier tickets also get you books and other goodies for supporting Clarion West!
(5) RECONVENE AFTER ACTION REPORT. Mlex tells what it was like to virtually attend “reCONvene 2020”, and has quotes from some of the panels.
…reCONvene has now assembled and accomplished a hybrid version of the other cons I attended. And they did it really well!
The format of reCONvene was to set up a series of simultaneous program items, so that you could only attend one out of several that were happening during any given hour. This is the typical parallel programming style of most cons, so it had a natural feel to it. Since the con was a one-day event, this meant that between the hours of 11am to 5pm, you could attend six full panels sessions, at most. Or, if you are the sort to go in and out of rooms during a con, you could pop around and get a flavor for the multiple things going on.
Vandhana Singh started off the session by noting that the looming threat of climate change is not being met with the serious measures it requires. On the contrary, the collective juggernaut of humankind is colliding with it head on.
Vandhana: It’s a so called ‘normal’ way of behavior that brought us here. People are so invested in what feels normal for them, their denial kicks in, and they want to do the same things they have always done in the same way. I really didn’t realize the depth to which the current paradigm has a hold on our imaginations. And you can also see the predicted rise of right-wing groups actually taking place before our very eyes.
Vince: In any complex system you not only get the linear effect, but you get all sorts of unexpected outcomes that radiate out in different directions. There’s an established body of climate fiction that deals with these actually. There were archetypes of them even before the 20th century. And each of these stories attempts to deal with the inexplicable change that suddenly occurs. These could be brought on by wars, pandemics, or even the use of agriculture. Historically all of these, and many other factors, have been proven to be causes of total systemic changes. So, what do you think you are going to change in your fiction writing due to this situation that we find ourselves in?
…I’m one of the judges for the 2020 World Fantasy award and over the last few months I’ve read literally hundreds of fantasy titles, some good, some bad, most mediocre. I might easily have groaned at yet another entry into this overcrowded mode. But Mordew is a darkly brilliant novel, extraordinary, absorbing and dream-haunting. That it succeeds as well as it does speaks to Pheby’s determination not to passively inhabit his Gormenghastly idiom but instead to lead it to its most extreme iteration, to force inventiveness and grotesqueness into every crevice of his work. It seems that one way to take an apparently exhausted idiom and make it new is just to push through, with enough imaginative energy to refresh the tired old tropes. Mordew is so crammed with grotesque inventiveness that it overwhelms the reader’s resistance.
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
August 23, 1965 — Dr. Who And The Daleks starring Peter Cushing premiered in the U.K. Note that it was not Who canon as, though it used The Daleks serial script by Terry Nation from the series as its basis, The Doctor here is not part of the regenerations accepted by the BBC. Roberta Tovey as Susan and Jennie Linden as Barbara are the other principal cast. It was directed by Gordon Flemyng, and produced by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg from a screenplay by Subotsky. Neither Clute nor anyone else who’s reviewed cared for it or its sequel. A Guardian reviewer several years back said that, “people don’t talk about Dr Who and the Daleks any more.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have the film at a 41% rating. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born August 23, 1863 – Amélie Rives, Princess Troubetzkoy. A score of novels (we may claim The Ghost Garden), shorter stories, paintings, plays; three poems in Fantasy & Terror 13 (ed. J.A. Salmonson; published posthumously). Introduced to Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy (1864-1936) by Oscar Wilde. Matter by and about her and the Prince in U. Virginia Lib’y Special Collections. (Died 1945) [JH]
Born August 23, 1898 – George Papashvily. Author, sculptor, inventor. Fought in Georgian Menshevik Army against Soviet Russians, immigrated here. Memoir Anything Can Happen (with wife Helen) sold 1.5 million copies, made a motion picture (G. Seaton dir. 1952); five more books. We may claim “Davit” and “The Khevsouri and the Eshmakie”. (Died 1978) [JH]
Born August 23, 1924 – Lloyd Birmingham. A score of covers, thirty interiors. Here is the Nov 61 Fantastic. Here is the Feb 62 Analog. Here is the Apr 62 Amazing and here is the Oct 63. Here is Great SF 9. Also comics, freelance illustration. (Died 2010) [JH]
Born August 23, 1927 — Peter Wyngarde. Not one who was a lead actor in any genre series save Department S where he was Jason King but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avengers pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.) (CE)
Born August 23, 1929 — Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth Century, Fantasy Island, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (CE)
Born August 23, 1931 — Barbara Eden, 89. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors, though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring role as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. (CE)
Born August 23, 1944 — Karl Alexander. Author of Time after Time which when filmed was directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. (A thirteen-episode series would happen in 2017.) His sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known, nor is his Time-Crossed Lovers novel. (Died 2015.) (CE)
Born August 23, 1947 – Marva Dasef, 73. Technical writer who turned to fiction. Three novels, twenty shorter stories for us; various others. Ranked The Martian above Dhalgren. Website here. [JH]
Born August 23, 1961 — Alexandre Desplat, 59. French film composer who won an Academy Award for The Shape of Water. He also composed the music for genre films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Golden Compass, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rise of the Guardians, and Isle of Dogs. (CE)
Born August 23, 1969 – Benjamin Rosenbaum, 51. One novel, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors. Translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu. Software developer for Nat’l Science Foundation, for Washington, D.C., city government; built on-line game Sanctum. Website here. [JH]
Born August 23, 1983 – Winston Blake Wheeler Ward, 37. Founded Infinite Worlds magazine with a Kickstarter raising $3,500 from a hundred people (target $1,500) in Apr 19; five issues so far. Founder & curator of on-line monthly flash-fiction challenge the Five Hundred. Loves woodworking and dogs. [JH]
Born August 23, 1990 — Jessica Lee Keller, 30. Lauren, Elise’s Best Friend, in The Adjustment Bureau from Philip K. Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. She also shows up in Lucifer, Terror Birds and 12-24 where IMDB describes her as the One Tit Zombie. (CE)
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Prickly City returns home from space – but is it sweet home?
This year’s Fantasticon will not be “The Weird Fantasticon” at our usual venue, but will be a virtual convention, like most other conventions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The dates will be 5-6 September 2020.
The theme of Fantasticon will be disasters, but not a word about the covid-19 pandemic (we get plenty of info on that particular disaster from other sources). But as usual, not everthing will be about the theme.
Some of the program will be in English, some of it in Danish.
…Stephens is 87 now, under self-imposed lockdown in one of those amenity-rich mid-rise apartment complexes that have sprouted all over Houston, this one just north of Hermann Park, in the Binz area. Her one-bedroom unit is cluttered with papers and stacks of books on nearly every surface. There are many romance novels, yes, as well as more-cerebral tomes such as A Nervous Splendor, a history of Vienna in the late 1880s. Family photographs, some dating back almost to that time, populate a small table in a living room corner….
… It has long been an open secret—certainly among women of color—that romance publishing has a race problem. A 2014 survey of four thousand romance writers conducted by Larson revealed that authors of color earned about 60 percent less than white writers. In 2019, research conducted by the Ripped Bodice, in Los Angeles, one of the few bookstores in America to sell romance exclusively, revealed that only 8 percent of leading romance publishers had released novels by women of color. And, not incidentally or coincidentally, the membership of the RWA is 86 percent white, according to the latest data. No Black writer had won a RITA—formerly the RWA’s highest honor—until 2019, and not for want of trying….
Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.
“Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth. If it were to enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and reports on asteroids of any size.”
…”I could not understand how these slow, tasty animals that are just sitting there waiting to be eaten by a jaguar could survive,” Egerstedt said. “So I started reading about sloths and I got really excited about embracing slowness in robotics. And when you’re measuring things that are evolving over weeks and months, you don’t have to be fast — it’s OK to be slow, as long as you’re out there and getting the job done.”
With this in mind, Egerstedt and several students in his lab came up with the idea to design a robot that could do just that — reach places that humans and most high-powered robots can’t, like a tree canopy, and stay there to monitor environmental changes over time.
To do this, the SlothBot needed to be extremely energy efficient — sloth-like, if you will — to conserve power and continue sampling the air, without having to be lowered down from the trees and recharged….
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2016, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum made it possible to “Explore the Museum in Klingon”. Here’s a video based on the outtakes.
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the galaxy’s most popular tourist destinations, and celebrates infinite diversity in infinite combinations among its visitors. Although we are fairly certain there are no longer undercover Klingon agents on staff, we welcome citizens of the planet Kronos to explore the history of flight on Earth alongside our terrestrial visitors.
To help increase Klingon visitorship, we turned to Earth’s premier extraterrestrial linguist and former Smithsonian post-doctoral fellow, Marc Okrand. Okrand developed the Klingon and Vulcan languages for the Star Trek franchise, and was kind enough to translate and record a highlights tour of the Museum, discussing your favorite artifacts in Klingon.
The tour, which can be enjoyed from anywhere on or off the planet, includes six of the Museum’s most iconic artifacts, some of which required creative interpretation for our interstellar audiences. The Spirit of St. Louis became St. Louis toDuj (Mettle of St. Louis), while John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 became “Mercury jup ghom Soch” (“Group of Friends 7”), because there is no Klingonese word for “friendship.”…
[Thanks to John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title cedit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]
(1) JUMP ON THE TRUCK. In the Washington Post, Robert Zubrin and Homer Hickam have an opinion piece where they say that SpaceX Dragon’s success should make the preferred launch vehicle for a return to the Moon and NASA should shelve the Orion rocket as too unwieldy. “Send the SpaceX Dragon to the moon”.
In March 2019, Vice President Pence challenged NASA to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 “by any means necessary.” This was a potential breakthrough, because after nearly 50 years of drift, the White House was finally giving NASA’s human spaceflight program a concrete goal with a clear timeline and forceful support — a necessity for any progress and the restoration of the agency’s can-do spirit. The purpose for the mission itself is a blend of economic, scientific and world leadership goals designed to make the investment worthwhile to all Americans.
NASA’s response to Pence’s challenge was to proceed with what it already had in the pipeline: the Orion crewed spacecraft and the massive shuttle-derived Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift expendable booster rocket. SLS has been in slow-walk development since 2006, with more than $18 billion spent, but it is still years away from launch. Considering this track record, we unhappily doubt the SLS/Orion combination will meet the vice president’s challenge.
But now we have an alternative. The contract that resulted in the Dragon crewed spacecraft was issued by NASA in 2014. Six years and $3 billion later, it has flown astronauts into orbit. What SpaceX did was show that a well-led entrepreneurial team can achieve results that were previously thought to require the efforts of superpowers, and in a small fraction of the time and cost, and even — as demonstrated by its reusable Falcon launch vehicles — do things deemed impossible altogether. This is a revolution….
Hey there. I know you’re having a rough time right now, and I’m sorry to say you earned it. I wish I had known about your behavior sooner; I wish I had known that you weren’t just making rank jokes among friends, as we all do once in a while, but engaged in serious abuses of your power, engaged in harming people.
I am, needless to say, very very disappointed in you.
I’m saddened for the people you have hurt, and I’m really disappointed that you have turned out not to be the person I thought you were. Even more, I’m wondering if you even have the self-awareness to realize how much you have harmed not just the people you harassed or gaslit or backstabbed, but also the communities you were a part of. How much you have damaged the people who care about you and who have tried to be your friends, as well….
(4) STOKERCON UK. The StokerCon UK committee has announced a new set of dates for the Horror Writers Association event which has been chased around the calendar by the coronavirus. The post is here.
…Secondly, we are grateful to the majority of you who, since our previous announcement, have allowed us to get on with trying to save the convention—or at least a version of it—by rescheduling it.
To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we have agreed tentative dates for the event with the two convention hotels of 28-31 January 2021. With events and advice changing so quickly, the hotels have agreed to follow UK Government advice and are prepared to reassess or postpone the event once again nearer the time, depending on the spread and hopeful containment of the virus.
… We now know where we are. We’re in that prolonged change. It’s a transition, and we’ve finally hit it. All of 2020 will be a year of half-measures, making do, and getting through.
Frankly, I find knowing where we are calming. I now know how to proceed day to day. I don’t like it, but I don’t have to like it.
I, you, all of us just have to survive it.
The knowledge of where we’re at, though, took me out of survival mode. I’m no longer obsessively reading the news every day, trying to figure out where we are. I’m donning my mask when I go out. I make that daily calculation—is it worth the risk to my health (and Dean’s health) to do whatever it is I am planning to do?
I can calculate risk now. And, more importantly, Dean and I are agreed. We consult if we’re going to do something outside of our usual schedule, based on the level of risk.
We are more or less staying home, but we did anyway, since we work here. That sense of ease, that feeling of no longer being on the knife’s edge, has made it easier to focus, although not always easier to work.
I’m one of the few people I know who has made the mental transition out of survival mode. (If one of us gets sick, I know I’ll head right back into it.) Now that I know how we’re going to be living day to day, I’m willing to live day to day. I don’t need to be ever vigilante for another tow truck, coming at us out of the dark.
Because I’ve made this transition, I can see other folks who haven’t. In my various social media feeds, I’m watching writers talk about their process or their lack of one. Writers, discussing how their work has changed or just plain stopped. Writers, who can’t face any of their usual projects, and who are feeling lost and don’t exactly know why.
Everyone knows the changes in their writing habits come from the pandemic, but most don’t understand what to do. And many people are worried that the changes to their writing methods are permanent.
Are those changes permanent? It depends on the change. They seem to fall into two categories…
… We are in a new place. Like any new place, it will take time to learn all its ins and outs. We have to explore it and understand it—and survive the transition into it.
If you’re dealing with actual life and death issues, from someone being very ill in your life to a major loss of income or career, then give yourself time to recover. Take the pressure off your writing. There’s enough pressure in your life….
(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY,
June 24, 1982 — Blade Runner premiered. It was directed by Ridley Scott, and was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. It starred Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. It was based very loosely on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It would win the Best Dramatic Presentation at ConStellation, beating out The Wrath of Khan, E.T., The Dark Crystal and The Road Warrior. Critics were puzzled by it and t generated little street buzz nearly thirty years ago. It would vastly raise its stature over the years, now being considered one of the Best SF works ever done. It’s worth Warner Bros. released The Final Cut, a 25th-anniversary digitally remastered version; this is the only version over which Scott retained full artistic control.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 24, 1842 – Ambrose Bierce. Four hundred short pieces, sixty poems. A pioneer in realistic fiction; a great fantasist; a biting satirist. When William Dean Howells said AB was among our three greatest writers, AB said “I am sure Mr. Howells is the other two.” Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish. (Died 1914, maybe) [JH]
Born June 24, 1915 – Sir Frederick Hoyle. Coined the expression “Big Bang”, rejected the theory. Radar research in World War II with more personnel than the Manhattan Project. Mayhew Prize, Balzan Prize, Crafoord Prize. Founded the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and resigned from it. A dozen SF novels, two dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors; translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish. (Died 2001) [JH]
Born June 24, 1937 – Charles Brown. Founded Locus (with Ed Meskys and Dave Vanderwerf) as a fanzine; it grew, changed, and “semiprozine” was invented to describe it; 29 Hugos by the time of his death. You could disagree with him; on panels with him I opposed his “mainstream literature is about the past, science fiction is about the present, nobody can write about the future”; no one has outdone him. Writers & Illustrators of the Future Award for lifetime achievement. (Died 2009) [JH]
Born June 24, 1947 — Peter Weller, 73. Yes it’s his Birthday today too. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is it of the Naked Lunch genre? Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked. And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise! (CE)
Born June 24, 1948 – Kris Neri, age 72.Two novels for us; four more, sixty shorter stories. After living in San Francisco, and Southern California, moved to Sedona (Arizona); now at home in Silver City (New Mexico). Teaches writing through the U. Cal. L.A. Extension School. Says her Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries feature “a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent”. Website here. [JH]
Born June 24, 1950 — Mercedes Lackey, 70. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Gunn and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. Lackey and Dixon are GoHs of this year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand. (CE)
Born June 24, 1950 — Nancy Allen, 70. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct-to-video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. (Oh, that sounds awful.) And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. (CE)
Born June 24, 1961 — Iain Glen, 59. Scots actor who played as Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, he’s also well known for his roles as Dr. Alexander Isaacs/Tyrant in the Resident Evil franchise; and he played the role of Father Octavian, leader of a sect of clerics who were on a mission against the Weeping Angels in “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, all Eleventh Doctor stories. (CE)
Born June 24, 1970 – Nicolas Fructus, age 50. Recently, comics and storyboard art for animated films and video games. Worked with Moebius, Philippe Druillet; founded Delcourt publishing house. Here is a cover for Bifrost. Here is one for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe”. Here is A Year in the Air. [JH]
Born June 24, 1982 — Lotte Verbeek, 38. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including being Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the now-concluded cross-world Counterpart series. (CE)
Born June 24, 1988 – Kasey Lansdale, age 32. Country music singer-songwriter who has been writing in our field with her father Joe Lansdale; six short stories with him, two alone; edited two anthologies, recently Impossible Monsters. “Tremble” with JL was in Pop the Clutch from Dark Moon last year. Website here. [JH]
Born June 24, 1994 — Nicole Muñoz, 26. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same same. (CE)
The U.S. Postal Service will issue commemorative Forever stamps celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday. The Postal Service and Warner Bros. Consumer Products are excited to dedicate these stamps at a virtual ceremony on July 27, the 80th anniversary of Bugs Bunny’s official screen debut.
Bugs has always been known for his impeccable impersonations and his masterful masquerades, so the soon-to-be-revealed 10 designs on this pane of 20 stamps each showcase a costumed Bugs Bunny in some of his most memorable getups.
I remember the first time I encountered an attractive fat woman in a fantasy novel. My heart flipped a little as I read about a woman was for-real fat. She wasn’t your usual fictional overweight woman, either: there was no zaftig or curvy or voluptuous to be found near the Scientist’s Daughter in Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. But she was definitely attractive. The narrator describes her as follows:
“A white scarf swirled around the collar of her chic pink suit. From the fullness of her earlobes dangled square gold earrings, glinting with every step she took. Actually, she moved quite lightly for her weight. She may have strapped herself into a girdle or other paraphernalia for maximum visual effect, but that didn’t alter the fact that her wiggle was tight and cute. In fact, it turned me on. She was my kind of chubby.”
… Society generally views the science fiction genre as one of leisure. You read it because you have time, not because you want to learn something. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While all writers are charged with the task of creating a more empathetic society, science fiction writers have the additional burden of telling us what happens next.
Some of our best thinkers, and certainly our most comprehensive hopers, have been sci-fi writers. N.K. Jemisin has given us black female demigods who, despite their powers, still somehow suffer at the hands of an oppressive society. Octavia Butler has given us shapeshifters, time travelers, and voyagers who all had to react and survive under patriarchy and racism. Ursula K. Le Guin was creating entire non-binary societies … in the 1960s.
(12) IT’S IN THE OH! E. D. Ursula Vernon coins a word:
Segway is ending production of its original two-wheeler, which was popular with city tour guides and some police forces – but not the public.
Launched in 2001, the much-hyped self-balancing vehicle promised to revolutionise personal transport.
The Segway, invented by US engineer Dean Kamen, debuted with much fanfare, but struggled to make a profit.
Accidents didn’t help with the Segway’s popularity, and the company was bought by Chinese rival Ninebot in 2015.
Made at a factory in New Hampshire, in the US, production of the Segway Personal Transporter will end on 15 July.
Announcing the news, Segway president Judy Cai said: “Within its first decade, the Segway PT became a staple in security and law enforcement, viewed as an effective and efficient personal vehicle.”
However, in the vehicle’s almost two decade-long history it has also been the subject of mockery and high-profile collisions as well as a tragic death.
(14) THE PASSENGER PIGEON OF VIDEO STORES. Atlas Obscura leads readers to something that’s the last of its kind: “Bend Blockbuster Video”.
In early summer of 2018, there were two Blockbusters left in Alaska and one in Oregon. The Alaska stores finally closed that summer, leaving the Bend store as the last one standing. National media attention soon followed and the Bend Blockbuster became a tourist site as well. And after the last Blockbuster Video in Australia closed in 2019, the Bend store became the only one left in the world.
[Thanks to Microtherion, JJ, John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]
…Hand-wringing over diversity is nothing new in publishing — its work force is more than three-quarters white, according to a survey released earlier this year by the children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books — but over the weekend, conversations that have been occurring for years took a turn into public protest.
Using a hashtag, #PublishingPaidMe, that quickly began trending on Twitter, authors shared their advances, which is the amount of money they receive for their books before any royalties, typically based on copies sold, start coming in. The young adult author L.L. McKinney, who is black, started the hashtag on Saturday, hoping to highlight the pay inequality between black and nonblack writers.
“These are conversations black authors have been having with each other and trying to get the industry engaged on for a long time,” she said. While she wasn’t surprised by the disparities that were revealed, she was hurt, she said, by “how deep it went.”
Jesmyn Ward, a critically acclaimed novelist, said on Twitter that she “fought and fought” for her first $100,000 advance, even after her book “Salvage the Bones,” for which she said she received around $20,000, won a National Book Award in 2011. After switching publishers, she was able to negotiate a higher advance for “Sing, Unburied, Sing” — for which she won a second National Book Award, in 2017 — but, she said, “it was still barely equal to some of my writer friends’ debut novel advances.”
…A Google spreadsheet that collected the advances of authors also went viral, amassing nearly 1,200 entries by midday Monday. Its contents were self-reported and could not be independently verified, but many entries were detailed with the genre of book, the race, gender and sexual orientation of the author, as well as what the authors were paid. Of the 122 writers who said they earned at least $100,000, 78 of them identified as white, seven as black and two said they were Latin American.
Time and time again, I’ve become accustomed to having to defend my womanhood when public figures declare that transgender women are not “real” women. Sometimes, I want to quietly sit back, avoiding the stress of having yet another prolonged argument with people who will call me “sir” at best and a rapist who should be euthanized at worst—for all trans women, the argument goes, are just men who want to sneak into women’s locker rooms to do nefarious things. It’s emotionally and spiritually exhausting to debate your identity; sometimes, you just want to log off social media and take a walk or hug someone you love for support, curling up in your own small safe harbor, where, at least for a bit, no one is accusing you of being a freak, a pervert, an abomination who does not belong in the annals of this Earth….
….But endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it. I stand alongside the brave women and men, gay, straight and trans, who’re standing up for freedom of speech and thought, and for the rights and safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay kids, fragile teenagers, and women who’re reliant on and wish to retain their single sex spaces. Polls show those women are in the vast majority, and exclude only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is….
(5) DOOM PATROL TRAILER. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the second season.
The Doom Patrol isn’t done with the weird just yet! See what the team’s been up to in Season 2, starting with 3 new episodes on June 25.
(6) COLORADO CON CANCELLED. COSine, Colorado Springs’ annual convention, has joined the ranks of the postponed. What’s unusual is – this was a January 2021 event, and it’s being bumped to 2022.
Fortunately, all of our guests have agreed to come in 2022! You can read the official announcement here.
(7) THE GLUE THAT HOLDS IT ALL TOGETHER. Frank Catalano says “It’s weird to cross streams between education conferences and the Nebula Conference, but I did it. With a photo, in EdSurge.” — “Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Remote Education Conference Woes and Wows”. Frank’s wide-ranging review of virtual conference techniques includes these notes of praise for SFWA’s recent Nebula Conference.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America moved its annual Nebula Conference for professional writers in late May online. Yes, it had good moderators, snappy sessions and well-oiled combinations of online tools over its three days. But it also had something that helped replicate the physical experience.
In advance of the event, paid registrants received an unexpected package in the mail containing a four-page color schedule, a printed name badge and a short tumbler glass etched with the name of the event. To make those post-session Zoom happy hours more … happy.
Now that’s an organization looking to the future of virtual conferences.
… It was clear to my lightning brain — I’m not a Sherlockian for nothing — that I needed to free up space in the storage pod before I could put more boxes into it. There was, I deduced, just one way to accomplish this: I would have to start selling or giving away some of my books right now rather than later. But which ones should go? Obviously, I would keep personal favorites such as James Salter’s “A Sport and a Pastime,” Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping,” Frederick Exley’s “A Fan’s Notes” and John Crowley’s “Little, Big,” as well as books I still hoped to read (Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa,” Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene,” Cao Xueqin’s “The Story of the Stone”) or reread (Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall,” Boswell’s “The Life of Samuel Johnson,” Stendhal’s nonfiction, Macaulay’s essays, dozens of ghost-story collections, lots of P.G. Wodehouse, Edmund Crispin and Evelyn Waugh). I’d also retain material need for writing projects — mainly that popular fiction in the attic — and, not least, the first or special editions worth more than $100, including signed books by Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and Hunter Thompson.
So, picture me two weeks ago, as I sat on a white plastic lawn chair inside a gigantic metal oven, picking up book after book and only occasionally feeling a Kondoesque spark of joy amid many spasms of regret.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
June 10, 1950 — Dimension X aired “The Green Hills of Earth”. Based on Robert Heinlein’s short story which originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on February 8, 1947, the title refers to a song that Heinlein wrote fragments of here and the filk community has filled out the lyrics down the years. It was adapted here by Ernest Kinoy who also did the same task at X Minus One. You can listen to it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 10, 1918 — Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, and he also appeared on the Twilight Zone, Outer Limits,The Invaders, TekWar, The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury Theater, Space Island One, Memory Run, The Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton. He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage, but he illustrated them excellently. We in fandom know about Mipple-Stipple; his stippled style defies us to call it mundane. Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doom; here is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors. Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki. Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text). (Died 2008) [JH]
Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland. For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz – winning her only Academy Award. I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right; and otherwise, as a law school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong. The rest of her career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory. (Died 1969) [JH]
Born June 10, 1935 – Yoshiro Tatsumi. He coined geika for a development of manga he preferred; see here. I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan. Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about geika and manga; here is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work. (Died 2015) [JH]
Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 73. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
Born June 10, 1942 — Jürgen Prochnow, 78. I thought he was a rather good Duke Leto Atreides in Dune. It certainly was the best of the genre films he did around that time as The Keep, Terminus and The Seventh Sign were pretty awful horror films. Much better was Robin Hood where he was Sir Miles Folcanet. Then there’s Judge Dredd where he’s Judge Griffin… I’ll end his genre with his role as Cdr. Paul Gerald in Wing Commander. (CE)
Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 69. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. (CE)
Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern and sold various sales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English. (Died 2010.) (CE)
Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz. Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, ten Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal. Two art books, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of Don Maitz Fantasy Art Trading Cards. Guest of Honor at – among others – Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon (1997). Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road. Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book. [JH]
Born June 10, 1962 – Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D. Author, physician, Professor of Medicine at Tanta University. Two hundred books in both Egyptian Arabic and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines. Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures. In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls; translated into English, Finnish, French, German. Cheryl Morgan interviewed him in Locus 614. (Died 2018) [JH]
Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 56. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three. He also was involved in Gattaca, The Terminal, In Time, The Host, The Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it is still in development. (CE)
Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard. In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers. Independent Publisher‘s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult. [JH]
… Herewith, some works with RPG DNA: works that you may not know and may like, featuring the now familiar teams of skilled adventurers—don’t call them murder hobos—using their diverse skill set to solve problems. Usually by stabbing them.
[…] “To be honest with you, I did consider the ‘soap opera version’ [of recasting] for a hot minute, because selfishly we already had a couple episodes written, and transition-wise it would be seamless,” [showrunner Caroline Dries] said, according to TVLine. “But upon further reflection — and I think [Arrowverse EP] Greg [Berlanti] helped me make this call — he’s like, ‘I think we should just reboot Batwoman as a different character.’” She went on to explain that this decision allowed them to honor Rose’s work in season 1 while also not forcing the audience to put a new face to a character they’d already spent time getting to know.
Book-loving kids in Christiansburg, Va., are about to get a special delivery to ease the boredom of summer quarantine (and months of being stuck at home). Google will soon start dropping books to kids via its drone delivery service, Wing, according to the Washington Post. Now they can get their hands on a copy of The One and Only Bob (if they don’t already own it).
… Google’s book delivery service is an extension of the company’s drone service, which first partnered with FedEx and Walgreens to deliver over-the-counter medicines and other items to Christianburg residents last October. That pilot program has continued throughout the pandemic. Wing also partnered with local restaurants to deliver meals to residents; that service also saw an increase in demand during quarantine. Google has been testing Wing since 2014, when the drones made their first test flights in Queensland, Australia.
IBM will no longer provide facial recognition technology to police departments for mass surveillance and racial profiling, Arvind Krishna, IBM’s chief executive, wrote in a letter to Congress.
Krishna wrote that such technology could be used by police to violate “basic human rights and freedoms,” and that would be out of step with the company’s values.
“We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies,” Krishna said.
The nationwide demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd already have led to changes to police departments around the country – over use of force policies, police misconduct and police contracts.
The moment of reckoning over the country’s relationship with law enforcement also comes as artificial-intelligence researchers and technology scholars continue to warn about facial recognition software, particularly how some of the data-driven systems have been shown to be racially biased. For instance, the MIT Media Lab has found that the technology is often less successful at identifying the gender of darker-skinned faces, which could lead to misidentifications.
Privacy International’s Eva Blum-Dumontet said the firm had coined the term “smart city”.
“All around the world, they pushed a model or urbanisation which relied on CCTV cameras and sensors processed by police forces, thanks to the smart policing platforms IBM was selling them,” she said.
“This is why is it is very cynical for IBM to now turn around and claim they want a national dialogue about the use of technology in policing.”
She added: “IBM are trying to redeem themselves because they have been instrumental in developing the technical capabilities of the police through the development of so-called smart policing techniques. But let’s not be fooled by their latest move.
“First of all, their announcement was ambiguous. They talk about ending ‘general purpose’ facial recognition, which makes me think it will not be the end of facial recognition for IBM, it will just be customised in the future.”
The Algorithmic Justice League was one of the first activist groups to indicate that there were racial biases in facial recognition data sets.
(16) ANOTHER RWA REFORM. Romance Writers of America, in “Dreamspinner Advocacy”, admits they didn’t adequately pursue the missing author payments from this publisher under the previous regime. They’re gathering statements to work on it now.
As we lay the foundation for RWA 2.0, one of the Board of Directors’ priorities is to strengthen RWA’s professional relations advocacy. To this end, we are reviving our advocacy efforts with respect to Dreamspinner Press and its missing author payments. Previous advocacy on this matter did not properly or fully address the issues, leaving many members unsupported. This is unacceptable and antithetical to our mission, and the Board and staff are committed to doing everything we can to support our members now to the greatest extent possible.
We will be reaching out to Dreamspinner Press to demand payments due to our members on behalf of our members who request that we do so. We also will be working with RWA’s attorney to explore all of our options in this matter. We will keep the membership updated on this process.
We would like to hear from any member who is a Dreamspinner Press author about your situation and what you would ideally like to see from our advocacy efforts. Also, if any members would like to contribute accurate, verifiable statements about their experiences with Dreamspinner Press to be used both in outreach to the publisher and in a potential public statement to better inform both members and non-members about the situation, we are collecting those by June 30, 2020.
When SpaceX puts up another batch of its Starlink satellites in the coming days, there’ll be three spacecraft from the Planet company catching the same Falcon rocket ride to orbit.
These companies – SpaceX and Planet – now operate the largest commercial constellations above our heads. SpaceX at over 450 satellites; Planet at more than 150.
SpaceX is targeting broadband communications; Planet is all about Earth observation, and this next launch marks a big milestone in the San Francisco outfit’s plans.
These next three platforms that go up with SpaceX will go into Planet’s SkySat network.
Already this comprises 15 spacecraft. The satellites were lowered in recent months from 500km in altitude to 450km, to increase their resolution. They now see any feature on the Earth’s surface larger than 50cm.
With the addition of the soon-to-launch threesome, and a further three about a month later, Planet will then have 21 of the high-resolution imagers circling the globe. At that point, the SkySats will be able to see any spot on the ground (cloud permitting) on average up seven times a day.
Brain operation patients have been asked to play the violin or the guitar during surgery, but until now there is no record of anyone stuffing olives on the operating table.
A 60-year-old Italian woman did just that during a procedure to remove a tumour from her left temporal lobe.
The neurosurgeon at Ancona’s Riuniti hospital said the two and a half hour procedure “went very well”.
His patient is said to have prepared 90 olives in the space of an hour.
Awake brain surgery, as it is known, is used to treat some neurological conditions such as tumours that affect the areas of the brain responsible for vision, movement or speech. To help the surgeon try to inflict minimal damage on healthy tissue, the patient can be asked questions or engaged in an activity during the operation.
As the left temporal lobe controls speech, memory and movement of the right part of the body, neurosurgeon Roberto Trignani told Ansa news agency the method “allows us to monitor the patient while we work on their brain functions and to calibrate our action”.
(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Seven of Nine And The Doctor Singing ‘My Darling Clementine'” on YouTube is another clip of Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo singing from Star Trek: Voyager.
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Jeanne Jackson, Mike Kennedy, Jeffrey Smith, Michael Toman, Eric Wong, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
(1) GETTING PAID. On Twitter today, under the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag, writers disclosed the amounts of their book advances in order to generate data that will show if there are systematic biases against writers of color and other marginalized groups.
N. K. Jemisin responded — complete thread here. Comments include:
Jemisin also took questions:
Alyssa Cole, whose comments on RWA have been quoted here before, said it this way:
Martha Wells was one of several other sff authors who participated. Her tweets, which weren’t threaded, are here, here and here.
John Scalzi gave figures and analyzed the context in which they were paid for a post at Whatever.
Irene Gallo, Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books, linked the discussion to artists, as well.
…As an organization that just went through a massive crisis for many of the same reasons that underscore these protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many more —injustice, racism, and unfairness—we acknowledge that we have turned aside from confronting difficult truths for far too long. That our authors from marginalized communities, especially our Black authors, have been treated as somehow less deserving of a seat at the table of publishing. We must admit and learn from this shameful past, while standing up for our goal and commitment to make the future better. We stand together in the fight against systemic racism….
RWA is taking the following steps in addition to our continuing work on diversity issues and continuing efforts to make our organization a safe place for Black writers:
We invite all Black authors in RWA to attend our first online conference, to be held August 28-30, at no charge. This admission will include the recordings of the conference
We will make 100 scholarships to our online conference available to non-member Black writers
We are making it a priority to find new resources to add to our Diversity and Inclusion Resources page on our website
We will direct our Academic Grants Committee to seek out Black academics studying romance to consider for RWA grants
This is a time when so many of us are terrified, alone, and feeling helpless. We offer the following links, for those who wish to learn more or find a way to contribute.
(4) RECOVERING. David Dyer-Bennett’s photo gallery, “Signs Over Windows”, documents the messages and art on the boarding over vandalized windows in downtown Minneapolis. Also includes images of the scorched bits of books in the rubble around Uncle Hugo’s.
In the aftermath of the Minneapolis Police killing George Floyd, Minneapolis has experienced much distress. We’re being forced to confront issues we’ve let slide for too long (or that our work has not usefully improved). There is a huge amount of anger of course, both immediate and accumulated over decades and centuries. There is despair. There are even some tendrils of hope.
I’m not a suitable person to deal with the big issues here. I’ll keep listening, and I’ll keep voting and pressuring my representatives to do what seems right, but I’m not a leader in any of this.
But the visual changes to the city around me have been striking. In some areas, most businesses have put plywood (or OSB) over all their windows and other glass. That by itself is a big change, but not visually very interesting. However, much of the plywood has been painted with slogans and war cries, straight-forwardly or artistically, or even graphic art. Both the text, and the appearance, have been catching my attention, so I started photographing these decorated sheets of plywood….
… Wang: If you were a different type of writer, I might ask you how you conceive of characters and build plot. But since you talk about engineering as a language, it would make more sense for me to ask how you conceive of technologies. How do they come about, how do you then refine them, and finally, how do you incorporate them into the story?
Liu: I love talking about this stuff. My other former careers consisted of being a litigation consultant and a corporate lawyer, so I did a lot of research into the history of patents and the history of technology. That turns out to be a great way to find inspiration for fictional machines. If you go into patent databases, you’ll see tons and tons of interesting inventions that never went anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that, in an alternate universe, they couldn’t have become successful and become the progenitor of new lineages of machines.
I also get a lot of inspiration from reading about archaeological discoveries of ancient machinery. The Chinese had invented these amazing compound looms that could be programmed to create complex textile patterns, and we didn’t know how they worked because they didn’t survive. But the latest archaeological discoveries actually found some of these looms, or models of them made out of ceramic as grave goods, so archaeologists have been able to recreate them and figure them out. They were amazing, like mechanical computers that could be programmed to weave specific patterns. Similarly, archaeologists realized that Heron of Alexandria, a great Greek inventor of antiquity, had devised all sorts of machines for temple magic as part of religious rituals. That turned out to anticipate many of our modern ideas about cybernetics and autonomous control.
These lines of technology didn’t go very far, but in the fictional world I was creating, I could take it as far as I wanted to. …
(6) HIS NEXT RODEO. Congratulations to Ziv Wities (Standback) for making the grade at Podcastle.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
June 7, 1997 — Perversions of Science premiered on HBO. It was a spin-off of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. Its episodes were based off of work from EC Comics’s Incredible Science Fiction, Weird Fantasy and Weird Science titles. It would last but for one season of ten episodes. Writers adapting those stories included David S. Goyer (the Blade trilogy screenplays), David Schow (The Crow with John Shirley) and Andrew Kevin Walker (Sleepy Hollow screenplay).
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born June 7, 1844 – Robert Milne. Rediscovered by Sam Moskowitz, who helped collect RM’s stories for Into the Sun. Eleven there; fifty more not yet reprinted, e.g. “The Great Electric Diaphragm”, “A Dip into the Doings of the Four-Dimensional World”, “What the Great Instrument in the Lick Observatory Observed”. Even I found the Into the Sun stories and four more here. (Died 1899) [JH]
Born June 7, 1915 — Graham J. Ingels. Illustrator best remembered for his work in EC Comics during the Fifties, most notably on The Haunt of Fear,Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. He illustrated one genre magazine, Planet Stories cover as you can see here. Thought didn’t do any other covers, he was a regular interior artist for both Planet Stories and Planet Comics. (Died 1991.)(CE)
Born June 7, 1924 — Jon Ewban White. Writer who was the script doctor for The Day of the Triffids. He was the writer for Witch Hunt, a dark fantasy series that ran BBC for six episodes. He even wrote an Avengers episode, “Propellent 23”. His one film screenplay was “Crack in the World” which was straight SF Sixties style story about of the end brought on by the follies of man. You can watch it here. (Died 2013.) (CE)
Born June 7, 1932 – Kit Reed. Sixteen novels in our field; a hundred forty shorter stories, three dozen in The Story Until Now; fourteen more novels. First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under Boucher. Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian. Guggenheim Fellow. Called herself a trans-genred writer. (Died 2017) [JH]
Born June 7, 1946 – Jon White. Fanziner and bookseller. Revived Inside in 1962, brought in Leland Sapiro who renamed it Riverside Quarterly (after a famous dwelling in New York). Here is the front cover by Arthur Thomson (“Atom”) for vol. 1 no. 2. (Died 2004) [JH]
Born June 7, 1949 – Real Musgrave. Graphic artist who has maintained a fannish connection. Artist Guest of Honor at Westercon XLI (here is the cover of its Program Book); exhibited at Magicon, the 50th Worldcon. Here is a cover for Fantasy Review. Pocket Dragons, done as drawings, figurines, animated television series. Brother of astronaut Story Musgrave. [JH]
Born June 7, 1954 – Louise Erdrich. In the first class of women admitted to Dartmouth (A.B., English; later, honorary Litt. D. and Commencement speaker). Member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; her grandfather was tribal chief. National Book Award for Fiction, Lib. Cong. Prize for Amer. Fiction, Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Pushcart Prize. Love Medicine, only début novel to win the Nat’l Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Children’s books; Scott O’Dell Award for The Game of Silence. World Fantasy Award for The Antelope Wife; three more novels in our field. Interview in December 2017 Lightspeed. [JH]
Born June 7, 1967 — Dayton Ward, 53. Writer best known for his Trek fiction which began with publication in the Strange New Worlds anthology series. To say he’s written a lot of that media tie-in fiction is an understatement as he’s written forty novels so far with the Mirror Universe and the Starfleet Corps of Engineers being but two of the subjects he tackles. He already written one novel for one of the latest series, Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures. (CE)
Born June 7, 1968 — Sarah Parish, 52. In “The Runaway Bride“, a Tenth Doctor story, she got to play, with the assistance of extensive CGI, one of the nastiest Who villains to date, The Empress of the Racnoss, an oversized vicious spider with a human face. Great episode. It’s our introduction to Donna Noble, his Companion for quite some time to come. In a much lighter role, she played Pasiphaë on BBC’s Atlantis series. (CE)
Born June 7, 1974 — David Filoni, 46. Creator and an executive producer on Star Wars Rebels, a most awesome series, for all four seasons, and was supervising director and a writer on another excellent series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (I like the animated series far better than the live action films.) He makes his live acting debut in The Mandalorian playing Trapper Wolf, an X-Wing pilot, in “The Prisoner” episode. It’s also worth noting that he his first job was directing episodes during the first season of animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (CE)
Born June 7, 1978 – Jesse Ball. Novelist and poet; spare, surrealistic, and strange. Went to Vassar, which would have saddened my grandmother who never wanted it to go co-ed. Guggenheim Fellowship; Illinois Author of the Year, 2015; Berlin Prize; Plimpton Prize. Gordon Burn Prize for Census; two more novels and a book of shorter stories in our field; five more novels, drawings, non-fiction. Faculty, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he got Wikipedia to believe he teaches lying, ambiguity, dreaming, walking; and maybe he does. [JH]
(9) OUT OF SORTS. Meanwhile, back at the Tingleverse:
Ronald McNair (October 21, 1950–January 28, 1986) was nine when he took his freedom into his own small hands.
Unlike Maya Angelou, who credited a library with saving her life, McNair’s triumphant and tragic life could not have been saved even by a library — he was the age I am now when he perished aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger before the eyes of a disbelieving nation. But his life was largely made by a library — a life equal parts inspiring and improbable against the cultural constrictions of his time and place; a life of determination that rendered him the second black person to launch into space, a decade and a half after a visionary children’s book first dared imagine the possibility….
When Raisha Doumbia, a 20-year-old swimming instructor in Roswell, Ga., first downloaded the video-sharing app TikTok, she made lighthearted posts, like her lip-syncing and dancing to a song by the British girl group Little Mix.
But Doumbia paused the playful routines after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Now she is using her TikTok feed to urge followers to march for racial justice.
…All of a sudden, TikTok has become the go-to forum for burgeoning youth activism.
“Anger, dismay, disgust and unhappiness are all feelings that can be easily transmitted on a video on Tik Tok,” Aho Williamson said.
Black creators accuse TikTok of suppression
Activism arrived on TikTok just as scrutiny of its parent company, the Chinese-owned ByteDance, intensified.
As protests began to sweep the nation, black creators noticed that videos tagged #GeorgeFloyd or #BlackLivesMatter were hard to find, or looked as though no one had watched them despite a torrent of views.
To some users, it was a suspicious development, considering that ByteDance has censored videos of anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong, in addition to having been exposed for previously suppressing posts from users deemed too unattractive or undesirable for the platform.
TikTok insists that is not what happened in posts related to Black Lives Matter. In an about-face, the company apologized and blamed the problem on a “technical glitch.”
“Nevertheless, we understand that many assumed this bug to be an intentional act to suppress the experiences and invalidate the emotions felt by the black community. And we know we have work to do to regain and repair that trust,” said Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s general manager for the U.S.
…Revisiting Elizabeth Bowen’s Collected Stories, one realizes that there are certain literary works that, once read, make one burn with envy of those readers who have still to come to them for the first time.* There is not a story in this substantial volume, from the first to the last, that is not brought off beautifully. While it is no doubt foolhardy and certainly vulgar to choose favorites, one must mention instances in which Bowen outdid herself. These include the elusive but vividly immediate “Summer Night”; the haunting “Mysterious Kôr” and the haunted “The Demon Lover”; the trance-like wartime set pieces “Ivy Gripped the Steps” and “The Happy Autumn Fields”; the forlorn “Joining Charles”; and the merely—merely!—marvelous early tales “Daffodils” and “The Parrot.” In these and many other of the stories, Bowen reached, as Glendinning puts it, “a perfection and a unity that the sustained narrative and shifting emphases of a novel do not attempt.”
With direct flights to Wuhan and a population of 24 million people living in densely packed cities, Taiwan’s coronavirus outlook seemed grave.
But, to date, the disease has claimed just seven lives on the island, and it never went into full lockdown.
Its leaders credit masks as playing a key role, but not for the reasons you might suppose.
“Masks are something that, first, reminds you to wash your hands properly and, second, protects you from touching your mouth – that is the main benefit to the person who wears it,” explains Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister.
Taiwan’s citizens have worn face masks for health and other reasons since the 1950s, but the spread of coronavirus prompted a spate of panic-buying.
To even out demand, the masks had to be rationed while production was ramped up, from two million to 20 million items a day.
Long queues snaked back from pharmacies and other outlets – which posed a risk of contagion in themselves. So, the government decided data about each location’s stock levels should be made publicly available.
To do so, Ms Tang’s ministry launched a platform which each vendor could keep updated with their stock numbers.
Then, Taiwan’s hacking community, with whom the government had been building a strong relationship for years, stepped in.
It began drawing on the data, which had been made public, to build a series of real-time ‘mask maps’.
…Earlier this week, Chien-Jen Chen – the island’s former vice-president and a renowned epidemiologist – told British MPs that a well-designed contact tracing system and the application of strict quarantine rules to inbound visitors had also played a major role
But he too said the nature of the island’s “hyper-democracy” – and the efforts its health chiefs had made to gain the public’s trust – were the key factors in it success.
Those in power aren’t just responsive to the voices of citizens, but also the memes and other messages they share.
It helped the government counter false claims that the material used to make masks was the same as that found in toilet paper. In response Taiwan’s Premier posted a self-mocking cartoon, which showed his bottom wiggling, alongside an explanation of the different sources that toilet paper and mask paper come from.
“It went absolutely viral” says Ms Tang, of the government strategy referred to as “humour over rumour”.
[Thanks to John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, BravoLimaPoppa, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]
(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.
At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.
Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.
But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….
(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.
When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong. The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled. The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text. Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words. The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.
Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984, Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’ This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains. By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts. ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.
…Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.
But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.
Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.
“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”
This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….
…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg….
Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.
The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.
May 22, 1981 — Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole. It starred Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking, Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
May 22, 2012 — Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner. His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), Tannhäuser, The Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater. Complicated life and opinions less admirable. (Died 1883) [JH]
Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish. In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle. (Died 1930) [JH]
Born May 22, 1907 – Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra. In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the Spaceways, Space Is the Place, Strange Celestial Road. Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art. (Died 1993) [JH]
Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman. Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958. Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese. With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series. (Died 2006) [JH]
Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne. Editor of Western Construction. Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians. Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame. Eight anthologies of funny things people have said. Three novels in our field, five others. (Died 2016) [JH]
Born May 22, 1938 — Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips. Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance? Ten credited film appearances. For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books. [JH]
Born May 22, 1956 — Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
Born May 22, 1968 — Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right.
Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts. Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania. Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism). George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver. WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”. A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories. Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific). Crime fiction as Livia Day. [JH]
Born May 22, 1979 — Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.
(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.
Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.
Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!
4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively? How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.
Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.
I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.
Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.
Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….
Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:
“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”
In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.
“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.
Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.
Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.
“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”
In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”
This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.
Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.
Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.
Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.
A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).
At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.
According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.
(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015. (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, Contrarius, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
The RWA Board of Directors is thrilled to announce the introduction of a brand-new award, The Vivian, named after RWA founder Vivian Stephens, whose trailblazing efforts created a more inclusive publishing landscape and helped bring romance novels to the masses.
…In support of The Vivian, and guided by the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, the contest task force has been hard at work developing a contest that aligns with the Board’s vision for RWA 2.0 and that is designed to fulfill the following mission:
The Vivian recognizes excellence in romance writing and showcases author talent and creativity. We celebrate the power of the romance genre with its central message of hope–because happily ever afters are for everyone.
They also acknowledged the former award’s namesake: “We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Rita Clay Estrada, RWA’s first president, for honoring us the past 30 years as the award’s namesake, and for her service to RWA and romance authors everywhere.”
Precisely how winners of The Vivian will be chosen under the new award’s judging scheme has yet to be revealed. RWA director Avery Flynn responded to concerns: “I don’t think I can go into any detail yet because it will be officially presented to the board and members at the May meeting. I’m sorry. I don’t want to break task force/board confidentiality at this point. I know that’s frustrating. Believe me, I’d love to spill everything now.”
The RWA’s says highlights of the proposed format include:
A clear rubric to enhance and streamline scoring guidelines in addition to judge training that will allow for more standardized judging,
A sophisticated matching process so that entrants can be sure their books go to judges versed in their subgenre, and
A category devoted to recognizing unpublished authors.
Their proposals will be shared with members at the May 30-31 Board meeting. The Board’s goal is for the rules and format to be finalized and voted on in time for a fall launch, with the first year of the contest to recognize books published in both 2019 and 2020. (The 2019 eligibility year is included to cover the gap left by the cancellation of this year’s RITAs).
RWA Executive Director Leslie Scantlebury and RWA President Alyssa Day spoke with Vivian Stephens to request the honor of naming this award after her.
In their conversations, she was gracious, kind, and hopeful for the future of RWA. They asked if she would share her thoughts with our members, and we’re pleased to relay them to you here:
“I once heard an astrophysicist explain how heavy elements of the Periodic Table forged into the center of stars, later explode, showering the universe and everything in it with its spoils, Stardust. Since we all live in the universe it is well worth remembering that underneath the outer dressing of ethnicity, color, and gender, we are all the same. Showered with the gift of stars.
“Today, as we move forward into a new world order, Romance Writers of America must be one group, united by the purity of craft that identifies the organization. Guided by their star shine, moving quietly with confidence in the direction of their purpose, writing wonderful stories. Members must step up and deliver their best. Romance novels are read by people of Every Background throughout the World! They read these novels for entertainment, general information, life-style ideas, encouragement, rules of behavior, fun, a good laugh, hope, and a reminder of how life could be…if only.
“It is the duty of every Romance writer to give every Romance reader that experience. The writer must elevate themselves to be worthy of the craft and bring to it all of the nuances and magic of good storytelling. The reader deserves and expects nothing less.”
BGSU’s Browne Popular Culture Library profiled Stephens on Twitter today. Thread starts here.
(1) NEXT TREK. CBS All Access dropped a trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a spinoff from Star Trek; Discovery that stars Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.
Fans spoke, Star Trek listened, and a new series aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise is on the horizon! Watch stars Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn excitedly break the big news. Stay tuned for more information on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, coming soon to CBS All Access. In the meantime, stream full episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access.
(3) DEALING WITH A FAMILIAR MEDIA WEAPON. On Saturday, May 16, professionals in the field of influence operations (“Fake News”) will join Gadi Evron, Sounil Yu, Malka Older, and special guest David Weber to discuss how disinformation can be countered from an operational standpoint, as well as its effects on society and policy. “Countering ‘Fake News’: Professionals Speak” at Essence of Wonder. Registration required
Panel one will cover the effects of “Fake News” on society, and the shaping of policy around the topic. Panel two will dive deeply into methodologies, operational tools, and techniques, for countering “Fake News” attacks.
WFC2020: The Sookie Stackhouse books were made into the series True Blood, which ran seven years. In the books Lafayette (the fry cook) doesn’t last long, but the actor, Nelsan Harris, was so popular his role was expanded in the series. What other changes were made to the books’ characters?
CH: I thought the character of Jessica (Deborah Wohl) was a fabulous addition to the storyline. Wished I had thought of her. The fae on screen turned out to be not at all what was in my head, but it worked for the purposes of the show. I loved the sets, which I saw several times: Sookie’s house, Jason’s house, Merlotte’s. And all the actors were amazing. Alan Ball is a genius at casting. Nelsan was wonderful!
Dana Cameron, Toni L.P. Kelner (a.k.a. Leigh Perry), Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris will join us on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron for geeky shenanigans in a panel discussion about Worldbuilding (and maybe pets). Before the panel, Charlaine will interview Patricia on her new Mercy Thompson book, “Smoke Bitten“. Join us for this special show with The Leading Ladies of Urban Fantasy on Saturday (23 May).
(6) DON’T MISS OUT. Another WFC 2020 guest of honor, Steve Rasnic Tem, telling about “My First WFC”, includes this wisdom:
…My late friend Ed Bryant and I would sometimes read the glowing tributes to authors who had passed and Ed would say, “Well, I hope they told them these nice things while they were still alive.” Attending a World Fantasy Convention gives you a great opportunity to practice Ed’s advice. The sad fact is you may not have another chance.
Charlie Jane Anders is writing a nonfiction book—and Tor.com is publishing it as she does so. Never Say You Can’t Survive is a how-to book about the storytelling craft, but it’s also full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish in the present emergency.
Below is the Introduction, followed by the first chapter, “How To Make Your Own Imaginary Friends”
New installments will appear every Tuesday at noon EST.
Here’s an excerpt –
….So I’m writing a series of essays called Never Say You Can’t Survive, all about how writing and making up stories can help you to survive a terrifying moment in history. (These essays came out of a talk that I gave at the Willamette Writers Conference and elsewhere. And their title is borrowed from the 1977 album of the same name by Curtis Mayfield, which is a piece of music that has given me so much strength and inspiration over the years.)
Stories of Darkness and Escapism
When I wrote “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue,” I was going to the darkest possible place I could go in a story, and putting my protagonist through the most dehumanizing treatment I could imagine. I needed to face up to the absolute worst that could happen, so I felt like I understood it a little better. I also needed to write about someone facing up to the most nightmarish scenario and still emerging in one piece, surviving, even though it’s a dark ending.
Writing a horrifying story on your own terms means that you can show how someone can survive, or even triumph. And meanwhile, you can cast a light on the injustice of oppressive systems. You can also choose the frame and eliminate some of the ambiguity in some situations, to make things more stark and more clear, or to make juxtapositions that illuminate how the problem started, and how it’ll be in the future.
When you’re telling the story, you get to draw all the lines….
…Thus he was receptive on the day in early 1990 when one of his most productive if headstrong programmers, a strapping young metalhead named John Romero, suggested that Softdisk start a new MS-DOS disk magazine, dedicated solely to games — the one place where, what with Apogee’s success being still in its early stages, shareware had not yet clearly cut into Softdisk’s business model. After some back-and-forth, the two agreed to a bi-monthly publication known as Gamer’s Edge, featuring at least one — preferably two — original games in each issue. To make it happen, Romero would be allowed to gather together a few others who were willing to work a staggering number of hours cranking out games at an insane pace with no resources beyond themselves for very little money at all. Who could possibly refuse an offer like that?
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
May 15, 1955 — X Minus One’s “Universe” first aired. It’s based off Heinlein’s Universe which was first published in Astounding Science Fiction’s May 1941 issue, and George Lefferts wrote the script. The cast includes Donald P. Buka, Peter Kapell, Bill Griffis, Abby Lewis, Edgar Stehli, Jason Seymour and Ian Martin. Untold generations of people traveling in a giant’s spaceship have lost track of who they are and what they set out to do. They think that their ship is the Universe. You can listen to it here.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum. His Wizard of Oz has been translated into 50 languages, selling 3 million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956, applauded by the Library of Congress in 2000; 13 more Ozbooks, 28 others, 83 shorter stories, 200 poems, at least 42 scripts, under his own and half a dozen pen names. While living in the Dakota Territory, he was Secretary of the Aberdeen Woman’s Suffrage Club, and hosted Susan B. Anthony (Aberdeen is now a city in the State of South Dakota). He knew French, German, Italian. He said at the start that Wizardaspired to fantasy “in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out,” at which he succeeded. Last words, to his wife, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.” (Died 1919) [JH]
Born May 15, 1848 – Viktor Vasnetsov. Co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic-nationalist panting, key figure in Russian Revivalist movement. Designed churches, mosaics, a revenue stamp, the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery. Worked on stage designs and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden. V’s fantasy and epics irritated radicals, who said he undermined realist principles. Here is a flying carpet. (Died 1926) [JH]
Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov. Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us; an elaborate strange masterpiece; Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; in fact not published until decades after his death, too dangerous. Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”. Try this Website. See also Diaboliad, The Fatal Eggs, Heart of a Dog. Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev. (Died 1940) [JH]
Born May 15. 1906 – Ellen MacGregor. Librarian, cataloguer, researcher, editrix of the Illinois Women’s Press Ass’n monthly bulletin Pen Points; also worked in Florida and Hawaii. For children’s fantasy with accurate science she wrote Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and Goes Undersea; Goes to the Arctic published after her death; then 13 more, 16 shorter stories, by Dora Pantell. Lavinia Pickerell, prim, angular, and devoted to her pet cow, is an inadvertent stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure, but she is unflappable. (Died 1954) [JH]
Born May 15, 1932 – Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana and is quite horrid. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
Born May 15, 1948 — Brian Eno, 72. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling to them such as Music for Civic Recovery Centre, January 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the forthcoming Culture series? (CE)
Born May 15, 1955 — Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 55. Her book The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE)
Born May 15, 1955 – Takayuki Tatsumi. Professor at Keiô University, chair of K.U. SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; 21st Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan. President, American Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Society of Japan 2009- ; editorial boards of Paradoxa, Mark Twain Studies, Journal of Transnat’l American Studies. In English, for SF Chronicle, SF Eye, N.Y. Review of SF, SF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF Film (2014); The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature (2016). [JH]
Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa. Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank. Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books. [JH]
In the beginning, nearly every superhero had a secret identity. It protected them from villainous revenge, and created a delicious dramatic tension while interacting with loved ones who had no inkling of their other life. But the strict secret identity is fast becoming an anachronism.
And all of this is for the better, delivering not only greater dramatic possibilities, but also a healthier idea of heroism….
(13) FANTASTIC FOUR COMICS. Marvel’s tells fans that Fantastic Four: Antithesis is coming in August, the first full-length Fantastic Four story ever illustrated by industry legend Neal Adams.
Adams is joined by Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Captain America, Fantastic Four), who jam-packs this tale with a fan-favorite roster of Fantastic Four heroes and villains! Together, this celebrated creative team create a new nemesis for the Fantastic Four guaranteed to send shockwaves throughout all of fandom.
…Adams shares [Waid’s] enthusiasm about the project. “I have always had the sense of missing the chance to draw the Fantastic Four. It was a quiet sense, since I’ve had every opportunity to do my favorites. More, I felt Kirby and Buscema had done it all, hadn’t they…?” he begins. “When Marvel’s Tom Brevoort asked if I’d like to do the Fantastic Four, I knew I had to ask for Galactus and the Silver Surfer as well. I am humbled and thankful to Tom for the opportunity.”
Who or what is the Antithesis, and will the combined might of the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus himself be enough to defeat it?
With comic book stores closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an open question just what fans would do to get their fix. New figures released from digital service DC Universe suggest that the answer was, simply, “go online.”
(15) ON THE WILDSIDE. John Betancourt has launched a Kickstarter appeal to produce “Staying In Place”, an “anthology of stories to pass the time.” Various support levels also bring additional rewards in the form of reading material.
With so many people staying at home right now, we at Wildside Press and the Black Cat Mystery & Science Fiction Ebook Club are putting together a mammoth anthology of amazing stories for you to read and enjoy. The anthology will feature 20 novels and short stories by iconic authors such as John Gregory Betancourt, Paul di Filippo, John W. Campbell Jr., Robert E. Howard, G.D. Falksen, and many more to be announced. But we need your help to make this happen. We are coming to Kickstarter to fund the anthology. In return for your support, you get the anthology itself, some of our fantastic ebooks, and even a subscription to the Black Cat which gives subscribers 7+ free ebooks every week, including new releases of all of the great Wildside Press magazines (Weirdbook, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and even the upcoming revival of Startling Stories, the famous pulp magazine).
Every now and then, a Twitter act of creation reminds us that good things can still emerge from our hellish Internet stomping grounds. Such is the case with a viral thread from writer Alex Arrelia, in which Arrelia painstakingly—and hilariously—takes on J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters under the heading of “Men of Middle Earth as bad ex boyfriends who ruined your life.”
Most obviously, Sauron could have prevented the destruction of the One Ring–and thus the unraveling of his power–if he’d only done a little more to make sure that Mount Doom was protected from approach and infiltration. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that it is so unguarded–because Sauron couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to destroy the Ring rather than use it – that allows Frodo and Sam to sneak up on it. Sauron is defeated by his own inability to think outside of himself.
Showrunner Noelle Stevenson has always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. As a kid, she loved it all: the epic space battles, the magic, the quests that seemed larger than life.
But there was a problem with her favorite childhood stories, like Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings series. “I never quite saw myself reflected in them” Stevenson says, “certainly not at the heart of the story.”
There weren’t a lot of women.
Of course, there’s interstellar rebel Princess Leia and Nazgûl-slaying Éowyn. But Stevenson wanted a female version of Luke Skywalker and a terror-inducing femme Lord Sauron.
So when she started writing stories of her own, she made sure kids like her felt seen, in more ways than one.
…When Netflix and DreamWorks wanted to reboot She-Ra: Princess of Power — an epic showdown between magical princesses and an evil alien invader — Stevenson was all in.
She kept much of the original show’s action and adventure — like the original, the rebooted show takes place on the planet Etheria, and one of the princesses who is trying to stop the evil Horde army from taking over is named Adora.
…Stevenson did make one small but important change to the show: Its name. The Netflix and DreamWorks version is She-Ra and the PRINCESSES of Power. All the princesses are important.
She also gathered an all-female writing staff to update this team of powerful women. In the original show, the princesses are white, skinny and presumably straight. The new rebellion includes women of color. They’re women in all different shapes and sizes. And there are women who love other women.
Princess Weekes is an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, a website that covers the intersection of women and fandom. She’s been writing about the She-Ra reboot since the beginning.
Weekes says that because the team behind She-Ra is made up of LGBTQ people, the stories on the show give genuine representation of queer life for kids.
“You allow queerness for young kids to be just normalized in general,” Weekes says. “What I think Noelle Stevenson and the entire She-Ra team has done is create a society and place where characters can exist, but their biggest problem isn’t that they’re gay.”
Even Queen Elsa’s magic is no match for the coronavirus pandemic.
Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday that its stage adaptation of “Frozen” will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis.
“Frozen” had been the weakest of the three Disney musicals that had been running on Broadway — the others were “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” — and the company made it clear that it does not believe audiences will return in substantial enough numbers to sustain all of those shows.
“This difficult decision was made for several reasons but primarily because we believe that three Disney productions will be one too many titles to run successfully in Broadway’s new landscape,” Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a letter to his staff….
On Saturday, the US Air Force is expected to launch its secret space plane, X-37B, for a long-duration mission in low Earth orbit. The robotic orbiter looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and has spent nearly eight of the past 10 years in space conducting classified experiments for the military. Almost nothing is known about what X-37B does up there, but ahead of its sixth launch the Air Force gave some rare details about its cargo.
…[The] real star of the show is a small solar panel developed by the physicists at the Naval Research Lab that will be used to conduct the first orbital experiment with space-based solar power.
“This is a major step forward,” says Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Lab and lead researcher on the project. “This is the first time that any component geared towards a solar-powered satellite system has ever been tested in orbit.”
Space-based solar power is all about getting solar power to Earth no matter the weather or the time of day. The basic idea is to convert the sun’s energy into microwaves and beam it down. Unlike terrestrial solar panels, satellites in a sufficiently high orbit might only experience darkness for a few minutes per day. If this energy could be captured, it could provide an inexhaustible source of power no matter where you are on the planet.
It’s an idea that was cooked up by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in the 1940s; since then, beamed power experiments have been successfully tested several times on Earth. But the experiment on X-37B will be the first time the core technologies behind microwave solar power will be tested in orbit.
Most of you probably know the world-famous Keukenhof, the most beautiful tulip garden in the world. Every year millions of tourists visit this garden. That’s a huge lot considering the garden is only open in spring! Every year, a hard-working crew makes sure the garden looks as good as ever, including this year!
This year is ‘special’. Keukenhof is closed, for the first time in 71 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers. On the contrary; the flowers look incredible and get as much attention and care as always. All the passionate gardeners do their work as they’re used to. Because even without people, nature and the show of the garden goes on….
…Once the world opens up and travel gets easier Amanda and Ash and I are looking forward to being together again in Woodstock. (Yes, I’ve seen the newsfeed headlines saying I’ve moved to the UK, and even that we’re divorcing. No, I haven’t moved the UK, and yes, Amanda and I are still very much together, even with half a world between us.)
Thank you to everyone who’s been kind and nice and helpful, while Amanda and my problems got rather more public than either of us is comfortable with. We love each other, and we love Ash, and we will sort ourselves out, in private, which is much the best place for things like this….
And the couple’s joint letter follows.
(23) NOT THAT SUBTLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kyle Mizokami, in “The Space Force Receives Its ‘Kobayashi Maru’ Space-Tracking System” in Popular Mechanics says it’s no coincidence that Space Force’s warning system is a Star Trek reference; the Space Force also has a Kessel Run, and Mizokami thinks it’s no coincidence that the acronym for the force’s Space Operations Center is SPOC.
The U.S. Space Force announced the development of a brand new software package designed to track and monitor objects in space. Dubbed “Kobayashi Maru,” the cloud-based program was designed to modernize the way the U.S. Air Force—and now the U.S. Space Force—interoperates in space but with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cliff Ramshaw, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, David Goldfarb, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]
The remaining members of the Romance Writers of America Board of Directors resigned from office today, February 12. Prior to their resignations, the Board set a special election for the RWA membership to elect a newly constituted Board of Directors to serve out their current terms (through August 31, 2020). The special election will begin on Friday, March 13, and will end on Friday, March 20, at 11:59 p.m. CDT. Details about the election process are here.
“We believe that stepping down to allow for new leadership chosen by the membership is in the best interests of the association. The Board has always wanted what is best for Romance Writers of America, and we still do. This desire has been the driving force behind every decision we have made to try to navigate RWA during this difficult time. We have tried hard to keep the best interests of RWA front and center as we have confronted the challenges of the last eight weeks.
“We believe that the Board must have the trust of the membership and that this is the best way forward to achieve that. We believe RWA can and will be a place of inclusion and respect. We tender our resignations in support of the organization and its mission.
“Under RWA’s Bylaws and the Texas nonprofit corporation law, RWA must be governed by a Board of Directors. In order to ensure continuity of governance and based on legal counsel’s advice, we voted to set special elections for all board positions beginning on March 13, 2020 (30 days from today) and ending one week later (on March 20, 2020). This will provide RWA’s General members with the opportunity to elect an entirely new Board of Directors. The new Board members will be elected to fulfill the remaining Board terms that end on August 31, 2020, and no individual elected will automatically accede to any other office following their term. This special election will not replace the normal 4th quarter election cycle as required by RWA’s Bylaws, which will occur in August 2020.
“Our decision to resign will not affect the ongoing independent audit being conducted by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP, or the Board’s commitment to share the audit report with the membership in unedited, non-redacted form.” –Nan Dixon (Treasurer), Hanna Rhys Barnes, Kate McMurray, Maria Powers, Mellanie Szereto, Eliana West (Directors-at-Large)
PAST RWA PRESIDENTS RESIGN. Before the Board’s action today, another pair of past RWA Presidents Leslie Kelly and Dee Davis had proposed a way forward, which the Board did not accept. Now Leslie Kelly has resigned.
PAST PRESIDENT HELENKAY DIMON QUITS. Dimon, who served as President of the Romance Writers of America in 2018-2019, also announced she was leaving the organization after rejection of the Kelly/Davis plan.
FOLLOWING THE BOARD OUT THE DOOR. Immediately after today’s announcement, this member tweeted a resignation:
Ellie Finch —
In the past few weeks many other members tweeted that they had resigned, are intending to let their membership lapse, or are resigning from a chapter position. Claire Ryan’s “Implosion of the RWA” lists over two dozen names in the entry for February 11.
CIMWRA HOLDING DISSOLUTION VOTE. CIMRWA, the
Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Chapter of Romance Writers of America,
a chapter dedicated to advocating diversity and inclusion within RWA and
publishing as a whole wrote, is voting on whether to dissolve. Thread starts here.
…Until about six weeks ago, Toronto Romance Writers – an official chapter of the RWA – had been a thriving group, serving more than 100 local members. But the fallout of the group’s association with the U.S.–based parent organization has been severe. Many authors are choosing not to renew their memberships, and now Farah Heron, author of the bestselling novel The Chai Factor, is stepping down from her position as chapter president….
How has what happened with RWA affected the Toronto membership?
Since Jan. 31, we are down 20 members, and by the end of February, we will lose another 15. These are all members whose membership was expiring, and they chose not to renew due to the issues in the national organization. And as rolling expiry dates continue, we expect to lose more members each month. Also, we have lost speakers for both our annual conference and our monthly workshops, and we have had agents and editors tell us they cannot support and attend our conference unless we disaffiliate with the national organization.
But more than anything else, our members are angry. They feel betrayed by RWA leadership, and are frustrated by the lack of communication, and poor decisions board and staff have made. Many of our members feel they can no longer support an organization that is so resistant to taking an anti-racist stance, and has long allowed ableism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance towards LGBTQ+ members to continue.
Sarah: So one of the questions that I’ve had from people in my community, people on my, my podcast Patreon, are, what can, what can readers do? What, what do we do to move this community forward?
Sarah: And I, I don’t have an easy answer for that! And I was wondering if that’s a question you’ve also received.
Courtney: I have. I, I’ve received this question often, and I don’t have an easy answer either, because it’s not an easy thing.
Sarah: Nope! Sure isn’t.
Courtney: It is a, it’s truly shitty thing, in fact, and if we had easy answers to any of this, we would know what was going on. And I think, I think that the, to the extent that there is an answer, and I’m not sure that there is one, I think the answer is, like, work to be less racist and to reduce the amount of racism in your community. That’s literally the only thing. Like, because what we’re butting up against here is this hard problem that I mentioned earlier that was in, like, the last part of the diversity report, like, bunches of people are racist! What do we do about it? Like, I don’t know! Like, one of the things that I think this has really underscored for me is that you cannot actually make someone less racist. And this is, this is one of those things like, I am such a process person in so many ways, it’s like, oh, don’t like this? Here’s a process for you!
Courtney: I’m going to fix it with a process! And, like, there is no process!
Sarah: There’s no manual.
Courtney: And – it’s not just that there’s no manual. There is a manual! But you can hand it to people and they’re like, okay, I read it; I hate it. Ugh.
Courtney: Nothing! Nothing you can do about somebody who determinedly does not want to change, right? Nothing. There is no process. And so, like, I think your choices at this point are, you know, what do you do with RWA – question mark. I think there are a lot of people in RWA who mean well? I think there are a lot of people in RWA who are committed to diversity. And I think there are a lot of people in RWA who have not examined what it means to be in an anti-racist community and what it means to be in one that is supporting white supremacy.
Courtney: And the, the group of people that exists there is vastly overlapping. So I think one of the issues with RWA is this: I think a lot of people of color are going to leave, because it’s just not a safe place to be. Right?
Courtney: And I think a lot of white people – not, not all white people – I think a lot of white people, including some very well-meaning white people, are going to see all the people of color leaving, and they’re going to say, well, we have to prove that this place is safe, so I’m going to stay here and make it better. And I’m going to tell you that what you are doing at this point is reinforcing white supremacy when that happens. And you don’t want to hear that, and it’s going to make you mad to hear that a group of all-white people staying in RWA and continuing to give money to an organization that is white by design at this point, you know – like, they specifically did a thing knowing the effect that this would have on the community of color.
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
N.K. Jemisin –
PRESERVING THE HISTORY. Meanwhile, my alma mater (BGSU, MA Popular Culture, 1975) made this appeal —
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Romance Writers of America, currently operating
without a President, says they will determine a process for appointing an interim
President to serve until the next election. Meantime, they have identified a
replacement for Executive Director Carol Ritter. RWA announced on January 21: “Leslie
Scantlebury Appointed Interim Executive Director”.
…As of February 1, Leslie Scantlebury will assume the role of Interim Executive Director of RWA. As announced earlier this month, the Board accepted the resignation of Executive Director Carol Ritter, and she will remain on staff until January 31 to ensure a smooth transition. In the meantime, she has recused herself from all duties pertaining to the audit, and Leslie is serving as RWA staff liaison to the independent law firm conducting the audit.
Leslie has nearly 20 years of association management experience. During her career, she has worked with volunteer leadership at both the national and local levels. Her background includes governance, member retention, education, and volunteer management for large nonprofit membership associations. Leslie also has served on the board of directors of several local organizations, including the Houston Society of Association Executives. Leslie holds an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix.
Leslie has been an integral part of the RWA team cumulatively for more than a decade, serving most recently as Chapter and Professional Relations Manager. The Board is grateful to have Leslie’s leadership at this important moment for RWA.
Leslie will be working with the Board and a DEI consultant to determine a process for appointing an interim President that will allow our members to have input in the decision. We understand the importance of this decision, and we know it’s a priority for our members.
In August, every Board seat and officer position – including the office of President – will be up for election by the membership. Once the newly elected Board is installed, it will then form a search committee to identify and select a new, permanent Executive Director, in consultation with a DEI consultant….
RWA CHAPTER DISBANDS. The Las Vegas Romance Writers will disband. The chapter president explained why in a public letter to RWA:
It is with a profound sense of regret that, as the President of Las Vegas Romance Writers, I write to inform you that the Las Vegas chapter has voted to disband. The circumstances leading up to the closure of our chapter can be directly attributed to the censure of Courtney Milan and the chaos that ensued.
In the wake of her censure, a member of the chapter board resigned immediately. Other chapter board members expressed their unwillingness to support an organization that was so clearly in violation of its stated purpose and its own bylaws. They indicated that they would be letting their membership in National lapse, leaving the board without the officers necessary, by law, to run the chapter.
As a result of the positions of the individual board members, a meeting was called of the general membership to discuss the circumstances with national and see if there was a way forward for our chapter. We had no volunteers to serve on the board, to replace the members who were letting their national membership lapse. In addition, over half of the members of our chapter have expressed that they will not be continuing their membership with RWA.
Given these circumstances, the board voted to disband the chapter. Subsequently, a majority of the general members also voted to disband.…
CHAPTER PRESIDENTS’ LETTER. Other chapters have not yet given up trying
to reform RWA. Adriana Herrera tweeted
the text of a letter from 29 RWA chapter presidents demanding that the
organization take a list of specified actions. Thread starts here.
Some of their demands are:
Give serious consideration and respond to Courtney Milan’s settlement offer dated 01/14/2020. Remove Carol Ritter immediately and with cause. Begin the process of hiring an independent firm to conduct a full forensic audit.
Expand the current independent audit to incorporate a review of all ethics cases handled (or not) by RWA since 2017. In addition, we request: A review of how Damon Suede’s eligibility to run for President-elect was determined and qualified.
A review of the Executive Director’s duties and apparent overreaching control of the running of RWA as opposed to the RWA Board of Directors. A review of the retirement of the previous Executive Director and her temporary (and possible continued) reappearance as Controller.
A review of the current Board of Director’s questionable execution of their fiduciary duty. A review of Damon Suede and Carolyn Jewel’s questionable execution of their fiduciary duty in the matter of the complaint against Courtney Milan.
COURTNEY MILAN’S SETTLEMENT PROPOSAL. Courtney
Milan, on January 14, tweeted a copy of her letter to the RWA proposing a basis
for both sides to dispose of some – but not all – of the potential grounds for
litigation between them. For one thing, it sheds light on just how many there
are. Thread begins here.
PROGRESS ON RWA INTERNAL AUDIT. Courtney Milan shared more of her communications
with the RWA leadership. Thread starts here.
CAN RWA SURVIVE? Courtney Milan lists a few key questions.
Thread starts here.
RESOURCES. Shari Heinrich steamed into MLK Day with a list of reading she’s doing, and a list of questions she’ll be posing to future conference organizers about diversity and antiharassment policies, Thread starts here.
…Setting aside the question of leadership for a moment (and again, the current RWA board should be removed and re-elected in its entirety) it’s important to ask over and over: whom does this organization serve?
Who is the priority?
Because it cannot be both.
If RWA serves the current membership of RWA, well, that membership contains a substantial number of people who:
openly embrace and promote racist ideologies
post on RWA Facebook pages and in internal message boards about their homophobia and racist views on people of color
write transphobic and racist articles for and letters to the Romance Writers Report
…and I could keep going but it’s depressing.
A substantial part of the current membership of RWA is a substantial part of the problem with RWA.
If the organization wants to serve any marginalized writers, it can’t also serve that portion of the current membership. It’s impossible. One side has demonstrated in PAN forums, email messages, and social media posts that it refuses to recognize the humanity of the other, and refuses to recognize their culpability in maintaining a White supremacist, classist, heteronormative, racist culture inside RWA. Nor can it commit to changing that culture.
The organization also can’t serve marginalized writers if the leadership has a documented history of not acknowledging ethics complaints from marginalized individuals, and of publishing and allowing screeds against those individuals in print and online. RWA can’t serve anyone if the organization doesn’t fully reveal what happened in the specific case of the ethics complaint and process against Courtney Milan, and what happened to the complaints from every writer who has reported a problem.
RWA can’t maintain its current membership nor its leadership and at the same time say it’s going to rebuild. Rebuilding requires people in leadership positions who are trusted by current and prospective members. And it requires trust in fellow members of the community.
IMPACT ON OTHER ORGANIZATIONS. Alyssa Day has resigned as President
of Novelists, Inc: The International Organization of Multi-Published Novelists,
which she says suffers the same failures of diversity a RWA. Thread starts here.
In “RWA the Sequel,” YouTuber KirkpattieCake spends an hour challenging the criteria used to assert racism, looks forward to the results of RWA’s independent audit, and also takes a moment to scorn the cancel culture that fell on Vince Vaughn for shaking President Trump’s hand. (January 20)
Hint, the answer is “whatever writer you read last, since I’ve still to find a single transparent writer.” Which is good, since it would be disturbing. And I hope one of the last you read is this chick Sarah A. Hoyt and her novel Deep Pink(which is profoundly weird, yes, but come on you guys, if you didn’t like weird, you wouldn’t hang out around here, would you?)
Anyvay….. I swear there are people who never read a book trying to dictate not just what the rest of us MUST write, but also what the rest of us must read.
I thought the “challenge to read writers of color” was stupid enough when I first heard of it 10 years ago, but it’s only gotten stupider. Now entire writers’ organizations (puts hat to chest and holds a minute of silence for RWA. I’d do it for SFWA but RWA was once far more useful including teaching and mentoring stuff SFWA never had. Besides SFWA is long dead and rotting, so I’m going to edge away from the coffin.) are falling into this insanity. We’re hearing that BLIND-JUDGED-CONTESTS, where you can’t even guess at the name of the writer (and these days, honestly, it won’t help. I swear my kids, now mid to late twenties are the last properly spelled names in their generation.) are “racist.”…
MAINSTREAM MEDIA COVERAGE. These are some of the articles that have
appeared since the previous roundup.
…The RWA also needs to fill several vacant seats and choose a new leader, a Herculean task made even more difficult by the erosion of trust and conflicts of interest the scandal has created. The RWA declined to comment when contacted, but directed CNN to the statement mentioning Suede’s resignation. In the statement, the RWA says the association has hired an external firm to conduct an audit of the events leading to the controversy and has brought on a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant to “assist RWA with diversifying Board and staff recruitment” as well as future programming and events….
…RWA, an organization founded almost 40 years ago by a black woman, has frequently been an unfriendly place for marginalized writers, and attempts to change that have been met with pushback that now threatens to destroy the institution itself. Romance novels, at their most fundamental level, are about protagonists being seen clearly and loved—and this is a story about who gets to be seen and valued in the romance genre, and whose pain matters.
As an author of historical romances who served four years on the RWA’s elected board of directors, Milan has been one of the most prominent voices in the struggle to make RWA a more equitable environment. (In fact, she just won a service award.) She’s also known for her vocal Twitter presence, where she doesn’t shy from calling out injustice in very blunt terms, whether it’s around racism in romance or the strange plagiarism saga of #CopyPasteKris. The efforts of Milan and many others had put the RWA on a path to helping create a more inclusive organization, genre, and publishing industry more broadly. As 2019 drew to a close, it looked like years of dedicated effort and activism by many people, particularly by women of color, to build a more inclusive genre and an RWA equipped to fight on behalf of its marginalized members, were bearing fruit.
But that hope is collapsing. After Milan’s censure, board members resigned en masse; two presidents left under a cloud of controversy. Major publishers, including Harlequin, have pulled out of RWA’s annual national conference. Members are furious, and the work it will take to restore their trust in the organization is so enormous it’s potentially insurmountable.
…But since its inception, there has always been a certain amount of tension over RWA’s priorities. Was it a social club? A professional networking group? What constituted “professional,” anyway? (See: the great swan hat controversy of 2007.) Was it for published authors, or unpublished authors? Was it a conduit between writers and publishers? Or was it potentially a body for collective action, including against publishers? Equally important but less tangible was the question of the right way for a woman to act, even in an organization composed largely of women, and just how important it was to be nice and conciliatory, not to raise a big, disruptive fuss—even, or perhaps especially, over issues of racial and queer representation.
…The internet, too, has challenged RWA’s position within the romance ecosystem. RWA conferences are full of panels on various aspects of self-publishing, but nobody needs RWA to put their book on Amazon. They’re not a collective bargaining agent; they can’t, say, negotiate better self-publishing terms with Amazon. But romance authors need a fierce advocate more than ever, because they’re increasingly at the mercy of powerful tech platforms, as major channels for mass-market paperbacks like B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, and Borders have vanished. RWA’s presence at least means there’s somebody authors can call if they need an institutional voice to advocate for them. “If you are the member who calls in, who says, ‘Facebook for some reason shut down my author site, and I had 40,000 followers,’ we have contacts at Facebook and at Amazon and at Barnes and Noble that we can get in touch with at a micro level to help our members immediately,” former president HelenKay Dimon told me.
But in recent years, perhaps the central dispute within the industry has been about inclusion and intersectionality. While there’s always been a feminist thread in romance, the genre has also been dominated by straight white women for much of its history. Despite Stephens’s central role in shaping the modern romance, she was frustrated by bosses’ foot-dragging, even as she acquired diversely. Plantations abounded in historical romance well into the 1990s, as did books featuring appalling depictions of Native Americans with the word “savage” thrown around. Black authors have frequently been relegated to “ethnic” imprints and even shelved elsewhere in bookstores. And often, that “be nice” culture has suppressed attempts to fight any of it.
The article concludes:
…In the midst of the tumult, Bowling Green State University’s Popular Culture Library, which has an impressive collection of archival material related to the history of romance, tweeted out a picture of the first board of RWA. That board included two black women (Vivian Stephens and her sister) as well as a Latina author, Celina Rios Mullan. “The issue in RWA is not, per se, that we didn’t have diversity. Because we have diversity. Our issue was inclusion and access,” C. Chilove told me. That has been the case for a very, very long time. The photo testifies to a long history of missed opportunities to do better, in RWA and in the genre more broadly. For a while, it looked like the organization was finally getting it right, after years of chances that were thrown away. Then they blew it all up.
RWA’s handling of these complaints has brought the entire organization to the brink of collapse: Citing a gap between policy and process, the board voted to rescind the penalty against Milan; eight women of color on the board collectively resigned, saying they lacked faith in RWA’s leadership; the 2020 RITA awards were cancelled after hundreds of authors and judges resigned from the contest; and publishers, including giants Harlequin and Avon, announced they would not attend the national conference. Many predict that RWA will have no choice but to cancel the national conference entirely—a staggering financial blow to an already crippled organization.